NFL

A Tale of Two Wilsons: Both quarterbacks with plenty to prove as Jets visit Broncos

By Sports Desk October 21, 2022

The New York Jets travel to face the Denver Broncos on the back of a three-game winning streak on Sunday, though their recent record in this contest suggests it could be a struggle for their offense. 

Denver's defense has recorded a shutout in each of the Broncos' last two home games with the Jets.

The Broncos might have expected to enter this Week 7 contest with a winning record, but it is the Jets who are in much better shape in the AFC after six weeks.

Having started the season 1-2, the Jets have claimed three wins in a row since Zach Wilson returned from injury and face a Broncos team now 2-4 after two consecutive overtime defeats and with questions lingering over the performances of Russell Wilson.

The Broncos' blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks for the nine-time Pro Bowl QB has not worked out as intended so far. Wilson has a completion percentage of 58.6 this season. In 10 seasons with the Seahawks, his lowest single-season completion percentage was 61.3 in 2017.

His Week 6 performance in overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers was particularly poor as Wilson completed just 15 of his 28 passes (53.6 per cent), with Wilson's former Seahawks team-mate Michael Robinson warning there could be a 'mutiny' in the locker room due to his 'robot' approach.

A yards per game average of 240.3 is only enough to rank 14th in the NFL and Wilson's well-thrown rate, a Stats Perform metric that measures how often a pass is accurate and well-thrown, stands at 72.6 per cent. Of players with over 100 passing attempts this season, only the Chicago Bears' Justin Fields has a lower percentage (72.1).

In contrast to the Broncos' woes, the Jets come into the matchup on a high after securing their first three-game win streak since 2019, with last week's victory at the Green Bay Packers also marking their first three-game road winning run in a single season since 2010.

That year, the Jets season ended with a trip to the AFC Championship game. They have not been back to the playoffs since and recorded a winning record just once in that time (10-6 in 2015).

Only once since 2018 have the Jets had more wins in a single season (seven in 2019) than the four they have amassed so far yet, while the feeling is positive, it is no secret Zach Wilson still has work to do.

In his three games since returning from injury, all of which have been victories, he has thrown 572 yards with a completion percentage of 56. He has thrown only one touchdown completion while tossing two interceptions.

The No.2 pick from the 2021 draft has seen general manager Joe Douglas vastly improving Wilson's supporting cast, but their recent surge has been in spite of Wilson rather than because of him.

A well-thrown rate of 72.5 is a concern on its own but is especially concerning given 82.6 percent of his throws have been to an open target, the fifth-highest rate among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts.

No player in the NFL with at least 50 pass attempts this season has a higher pickable pass percentage than Wilson's 10.14, while he is continuing to hold the ball for far too long.

Indeed, his average time of 2.94 seconds from the snap of the ball to the throw is the longest of any player to have a passing attempt in 2022.

Clearly, both Wilsons have significant strides to make, but the difference is Denver is locked into Russell Wilson for the long-term on an extremely lucrative contract. Zach Wilson is still on his rookie deal and the Jets could soon start to have conversations about whether to activate his fifth-year option or look to move on to a new potential answer at the game's most important position. Breaking their scoreless streak in Denver against a vaunted Bronco defense will at least improve the case of the player the Jets hope will blossom into their franchise quarterback.

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